Take on midlife by taking care of yourself

The National University Health System has launched a booklet of self-care tips to help middle-aged women cope with family, career and menopause

IT professional Roopali Kadam, 37, who has two daughters aged seven and 11, makes it a point to connect with her friends over video calls to share how she is coping and lend them a listening ear.
IT professional Roopali Kadam, 37, who has two daughters aged seven and 11, makes it a point to connect with her friends over video calls to share how she is coping and lend them a listening ear.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Women tend to take on a greater share of caregiving and domestic tasks and the pandemic has saddled many women with heavier workloads, according to a recently released Deloitte survey of 5,000 women in 10 countries.

Besides these responsibilities, middle-aged women may also have to cope with physical changes brought about by menopause.

To help middle-aged women keep up their well-being amid the pandemic, the Mind Science Centre at National University Health System (NUHS) has launched a booklet of self-care tips.

Ms Joy Chen, a clinical psychologist at the NUHS Mind Science Centre who wrote the booklet, says: “Most women at their mid-life stage may tend, or even be expected by others or social cultural norms, to put the needs of others first, neglecting their own needs and well-being as they attempt to balance family and career.”

Midlife Challenges And Selfcompassion For Women, which was released online on March 31, is meant to help women cope with stress by encouraging them to attend to their own needs and be kinder to themselves, she adds.

It is inspired by a mindful self-compassion programme developed by associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr Kristin Neff, and Dr Christopher Germer, a clinical psychologist and part-time psychiatry lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

The booklet describes how women may naturally have higher social-emotional sensitivity and are at a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.

“When things go awry, they may internalise the problem and criticise or blame themselves. On top of the psycho-social stressors are the physical and emotional turmoil of the menopause, which places extra challenges to women’s wellbeing in midlife,” the booklet notes.

Staying connected with friends and engaging in relaxing activities are among the tips outlined in the booklet.

Others include going for a walk in nature, practising mindfulness meditation, reading an inspiring book and expressing your concerns with someone you trust.

The booklet also recommends that readers cultivate gratitude by starting a gratitude journal and counting 10 blessings at the end of a day, week or month.
IT professional Roopali Kadam, who has two daughters aged seven and 11, makes it a point to connect with friends over video calls to share how she is coping and lend them a listening ear.

The 37-year-old sometimes gets exhausted as she juggles work and domestic duties at home in the day, including supervising her children’s home-based learning.

Mrs Kadam, an Indian national based in Singapore, is also worried about her parents in India, which has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She used to visit them at least once a year before the pandemic, but now video-calls them almost daily to find out how they are doing.

To de-stress, she cooks, pens her thoughts in an online journal and chats with friends.

“It is important to find ways to connect with friends and family and keep one’s spirits up to tide through this challenging period,” she adds.

Ms Chen urges women to go easy on themselves.

“Don’t be too harsh on yourself for not being the ‘superwoman’ who juggles career and family perfectly.

“Make time for yourself and nourish yourself, so you can attend to others later. It is not selfish,” she says.

• Midlife Challenges And Self-compassion For Women is available for free on the Mind Science Centre website at bit.ly/WomenMidlifeChallenges

• A physical copy of the booklet is available for free at the NUHS Mind Art Experiential Lab at Alexandra Hospital, where admission requires prior registration. E-mail wan_yu_lee@nuhs.edu.sg to register

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2021, with the headline 'Take on midlife by taking care of yourself '. Subscribe